“Toxic nature of online political discourse”

By Shannon Lennox

Basic care for issues affecting our society should be at the heart of political discourse. Instead it has become an egotistical battle between party leaders and their supporters. Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland spoke to UWS news about this issue:

“Today’s world of fast quickly consumable news sees our biggest social challenges reduced to political disagreements. Often these are driven by the colour of party rosettes rather than the core of the issues.”

“In terms of the political sphere we could seek to learn from other nations. Meaningful citizens assemblies or juries have the ability to consider a single issue in detail detached from party politics. We should also look to our parliaments to have robust and powerful committees, with independent – rather than party appointed – chairs who can help drive forward inquiries and recommendations.”

Instead of issues advocated for in their own right, they are categorised in to particular political affiliations, meaning they are ignored by or ridiculed by the opposing political parties and their supporters.

Issues that affect our wider society such as mental health, cuts towards funding for marginalised groups and NHS are often the subject of political compartmentalisation. Issues are labelled as ‘left’ and another, the ‘right’.  This creates a toxic societal divide, with certain issues being at the heart of ridicule. Fraser says more on this:

“As a wider public society, we also have a responsibility to consider our tone and expectation. Too often we are quick to seek blame, the minister to fire or the party to vote out. Added to that is the increasing toxic nature of online political discourse where debates quickly become offensive slagging matches. The public have a responsibility to be positive leaders in their own lives if we are to expect the same from our elected representatives.”

With the general election upon us, this divide is more apparent than ever. Any discussion around politics becomes a self-absorbed reel of insults and important issues affecting our society are marginalised and mocked.

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